Film ID:
NEFA 21986



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This Open University and BBC production looks at the legacy of the decline in coal mining in County Durham. It looks at the history of specific communities all within a few miles of each other and how the rise and fall of coal mining affects them and what it has meant for their future.

Title [Open University Symbol] – New Trends in Geography

Title: A Second Level Social Science Course D281

Title: Communities and Change, Mining Villages In Co. Durham

A man sits behind a desk and speaks to camera. He introduces the programme and it’s context. He outlines the changes economic forces can have on communities. Sudden change, he states can often leave communities struggling to adjust.

A map of County Durham appears on screen, orange dots show the location of scattered rural communities in the county before coal mining became established.

On the map a red rectangle appears showing the study area for the film.  The first village in the rectangle chosen for study is the small village of Hett. A still photo shows a horse grazing on the village green, a house in the distance. Another photograph shows the local pub, the Hett Arms.

The commentary state that villages like Hett have managed to retain their rural character, farm buildings being the main feature of the settlement.

The film returns to the rural settlement map seen earlier. This time the map has additional black dots showing the location of coal mines which appeared across the county. Some pits appeared in rural communities, some of these flourished for a relatively short time then declined.

The map shows the location of East Howle just to the south of Hett, this is one such village that flourished briefly when coal mining arrived in 1872.

The film shows a view of a farm settlement with the remains of a pit spoil tip more or less ‘in the farmyard’.

General views show typical rows of terraced houses built for colliery workers, now derelict. One of the views also shows the corner shop and the pub, the ‘East Howle’. A chapel, corner shop and pub were typical features of many colliery villages.

The colliery closed at East Howle in 1905 following a fire, but the community settlement lasted much longer, a view of a derelict street follows.

The film shows a series of diagrammatic maps showing the development of East Howle. The map of 1897 shows the pit and streets of houses. The map updates to 1920 and shows that the pit has gone, but houses remain. The map of 1961, shows little has changed from 1920. In the late 1960’s and by 1970 many of the old colliery houses had vanished.

General views show the remnants of the pit heap, roads which remain after demolition of streets and one or two colliery rows which, although some residents are still present, will eventually be cleared.

The commentary states that East Howle represented the end of small-scale coal mining in County Durham.

The commentator appears on film sitting on a public bench at East Howle, a house and telephone box in the background. He explains that although a few terraces remain, East Howle and other similar villages in County Durham will be cleared away. General views show a few terraces remaining in a desolate landscape. At the back of one terrace, in an area now cleared of housing a woman hangs washing on a clothesline. A view follows of an isolated war memorial surrounded by metal railings

The film cuts to a diagrammatic map for 1951, showing the remaining 120 coal mines in Durham, employing 104,782 people. The commentary states that pit closures have increased since the end of the Second World War. The map shows subsequent reduction in pit numbers. In 1961 there were 109 pits employing 87,225 men, in 1971 the numbers of pits had fallen to 34 employing 34,230 men.

On screen a representative from the National Coal Board a Mr Atkinson, explains why the closures have happened. He outlines that many of the pits in the west of the county closed so that the greater reserves to the east, along the coast could be exploited. He also states that government policy and market forces also affected the number of working pits.

The film cuts to the programme’s presenter back behind his desk. He outlines what the affect has been for County Durham’s mining communities. He then quotes from a report by Derek Senior, which he reads at his desk that outlines the problems redundant workers experience, including the observation that they must seek work far from home. Consequently, houses stand empty, and property prices fall and he goes on to mention other factors that lead to the decline of a settlement.

The map of County Durham appears again showing the location of Ferryhill Station, a town affected by the closure of Mainsforth Colliery.

The presenter appears on location, with a backdrop of rows of terraced houses, in the distance Mainsforth Colliery on the other side of a main railway line. Closer views of the colliery show an area where large pipes come out of the ground and disperse large amounts of water.

In voiceover Mr Atkinson outlines that Mainsforth colliery closed suddenly due to severe flooding. He explains that there are plenty of coal reserves at Mainsforth, but flooding made it impossible to continue mining.

A closer view of the colliery pulls back to a view of a back lane behind some terrace housing. A man walks along the street towards the camera carrying a baby. The man turns a corner at the end of the street and walks towards some allotments, which also have a number of pigeon lofts. Keeping pigeons, the commentary states, is often the main occupation for a number of retired miners. A closer view of one of the lofts follows.

The film cuts to a different location where a brass band is rehearsing. General views show a number of players that make up the band, many are quite young. The commentary states that although the band traditionally has membership of miners, this has now grown to include many young people.

A general view follows showing a pigeon loft and a terraced street in the distance.

On screen Mr Atkinson from the National Coal Board outlines the future for the ex-miners in Ferryhill Station. He says that offers for alternative employment could compensate 500 of the 1000 workers displaced.

The Durham map appears on screen again, showing the names of the former colliery towns that were redeveloped. These include Vane Tempest, Dawdon, Easington, Horden, Hawthorn and Blackhall.

The commentary states many miners were made redundant.

A view follows of a United bus, moving off from a bus stop.

The film cuts to a solitary man walking across fields near Ferryhill Station. The commentary introduces the man as Tommy Foster, one of the miners made redundant from Mainsforth Colliery. He looks up at the derelict pithead. Tommy explains that some miners took factory work as an alternative to mining. A view follows of workmen demolishing pit winding gear. General views show village streets and houses. Tommy says that the mine’s closure was death to the village, and some older miners like himself did not take up the offer of working at other pits further away.

The film cuts to the interior of one of the small corner shops selling a range of provisions to the local population. A man and woman serve customers. The woman speaks to the camera about the pit closure and the effect on business.

An old miner is interviewed, along with others including Tommy Foster as they have a drink in a pub or club. Some of the men had been working at Mainsforth Colliery for many years before it closed.

In another pub the programme’s presenter, with respect to their employment prospects interviews a group of young men. One says that he would like a job for life, but the prospect of that being available locally is remote.

Another young man says he started work at Mainsforth Colliery and was offered work elsewhere after the pit closed. However he declined the offer as he didn't want to travel, and was made redundant instead. He now works at the local 3M factory. Another young man says he works for Remploy at Spennymoor.

The group is asked if they would move away from the area to find work. Most replied that they would rather stay as much for their social connections as for work.

A van travels along a back street between two terraces. General views follow of terraced streets. Ferryhill Station is in decline as much as East Howle, seen in the film earlier. General views show Mainsforth Colliery in the distance.

The map of Durham appears again, this time with red dots showing those settlements with category ‘D’ status and are planned for clearance.

Category ‘D’ villages are part of County Durham’s resettlement plan. General views show Ferryhill Station, from across the railway line. General views show new housing being built within the boundaries of Ferryhill, just north of Ferryhill Station.

The map of the locality appears on screen once again which shows the villages of Hett, East Howle, Ferryhill Station and Ferryhill.

The film cuts to show a Northern double decker bus approaching the camera as it climbs a hill. The commentary states that Ferryhill is one a number of ‘regrouping centres’ where populations from ‘D’ category villages will be relocated.

General views follow of new houses being built at Ferryhill, followed by views of a well-established council housing estate. A young woman pushes a pram along the street followed by general views of a new private housing estate in Ferryhill.

The map shown earlier now shows the town of Spennymoor. Spennymoor has a number of businesses and factories, which may provide employment for ex-miners, and those displaced from ‘D’ listed villages.

General views show the security gate for a factory on a local industrial estate.

A map follows showing an aerial view of Spennymoor. Superimposed over the map is a plan showing the development of new industrial estates and their associated road networks. Areas for new housing are also shown.

General views show children on swings supervised by two women. General views follow blocks of flats at the Bessemer Park development in Spennymoor. The swings are part of a communal central space within the blocks of flats. General  views of the flats and surroundings follow.

A photograph shows the famous Apollo Pavilion designed by Victore Pasmore at Peterlee, followed by views of new estate houses.

The film cuts back to the rows of terraces, smoking chimneys and a coal mine, followed by cuts to the brass band rehearsal, and a view of pigeon lofts.

The film ends with the programme’s presenter summing up the content of the film.

End credits

The speaker was Andrew Blowers.

The Open University would like to thank

Mr G L Atkinson, Industrial Relations Officer N.C.B.

Durham County Planning Office

Tommy Foster, Ex- miner, Mainsforth Colliery

The Villagers of Ferryhill Station, Co. Durham

Mainsforth and Tursdale Shops Band


Film Cameraman, Peter Dearden

Sound Recordist, John Bird

Film Editor, Ron De Mattos


Graphic Design, Beverley Clarke

Photographer, John Curtis


Production by, Graham Turner

Executive Producer, John Radcliffe


Production By, Graham Turner

Executive Producer, John Radcliffe


A Production for The Open University BBC TV

© The Open University 1971